SAHMRI. Inspired research, better health for all.
5 March, 2018

Consumer and Community Engagement - Committee


We have a Community Advisory Group and their work plan for 2019 includes four priorities:

  • Implement a community interest register
  • Hold a community engagement forum
  • Make community engagement resources accessible to researchers and community members
  • Establish key performance measures for evaluating the effectiveness of the framework

Our SAHMRI Community Advisory Group Members are:

Alan Bevan, Community representative

Alan is a member of the National Health and Medical Research Council Consumer Observer Working Committee for its peer review processes. He is a consumer representative with the Health Translation SA Medical Research Future Fund Rapid Applied Research Translation Program. He contributes a consumer voice to two research initiatives, one at Flinders University and the second at the Australian National University medical school in Canberra. He was a Director of the Board of Alzheimer’s Australian SA up until its recent merger into a national body. 

Alan has held various leadership positions including Chief Operating Officer, General Manager and Project Director for a range of national government education technology projects.

Previously, Alan was Online Services Manager for the SA Department of Education and Children Services. He has been a regional adviser within the education department and a secondary school faculty head and classroom teacher. 

Professor Caroline Miller, SAHMRI Executive Representative

Professor Caroline Miller is Director, SAHMRI Health Policy Centre as well as NHMRC Career Development Fellow at the School of Public Health, University of Adelaide.

Caroline’ research interests are in behavioural and policy research to inform interventions to reduce the preventable burden of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Caroline has been conducting applied research in the field of preventive health for over 20 years. The Health Policy Centre has programs of research in tobacco control, food policy and labelling, and alcohol. She collaborates on cancer registries and undertakes Patient Reported Outcomes Measures (PROMs) research.

Chris Christensen, Community Representative

Chris is a six times survivor of primary peritoneal/ovarian cancer, first diagnosed in 2010. Her main treatments have included two major operations, four lines of chemotherapy, and participation in the ARIEL2 PARP Inhibitor drug trial, as a person with the BRCA 1 gene.
Chris is the current Chair of Cancer Voices South Australia, a volunteer cancer advocacy organisation whose purpose is to raise an independent voice to influence the achievement of better outcomes for people affected by cancer.

Chris is involved as consumer representative on several state-based committees and research projects and speaks regularly to medical, nursing and allied health students and health professionals about her experience of cancer.

Ellen Kerrins, Chair

Ellen Kerrins is working in a part time role as an Assistant Director Community Engagement with the Aged Care Royal Commission. She is also working with research and health focussed organisations providing independent advice on consumer and community engagement strategy. Currently she is Chair of the Adelaide Biomedical City Community Advisory Group and a member of the Robinson Research Institute Advisory Board.

Ellen has demonstrated capabilities in connecting with people, building and leading high performing teams. Having worked in government and not for profit sectors Ellen is adaptive, resilient and outcomes focused. With over 30 years’ experience as a leader, manager, executive and board director Ellen remains committed to public health. Ellen has a broad range of competencies with expertise in nursing, cancer control, primary health care, ageing and workforce reform. She is committed to working with consumer-focused health research organisations, health care providers and services.

Dr Ellen Skladzien, Community Representative

Dr Ellen Skladzien is currently CEO for Down Syndrome Australia.

Ellen has experience in leadership and strategic management positions within the not-for-profit sector. She has proven expertise in driving change in the disability, health and aged care system through advocacy which combines evidence with the real-world experiences of consumers.

Ellen is passionate about supporting the involvement of consumers in research, policy and advocacy work. She established the Consumer Dementia Research Network at Alzheimer’s Australia as well as the Down Syndrome Advisory Network at Down Syndrome Australia.

Julia Overton, Health Consumer Alliance Representative

Julia Overton is the Chief Executive of Health Consumers Alliance SA.  Julia has spent most of her career working within the health system in South Australia. Working across care settings, including health, disability and ageing, Julia has supported individuals and communities to have access to the services they need, when and where they need them.

Julia’s experience includes supporting both rural/remote and metropolitan populations, with a focus on the most vulnerable people in these communities. Julia is passionate about driving collaborative approaches to achieve progress and developing partnerships to increase organisational capacity, impact and outcomes.

Dr Merryn Netting, Researcher Theme Representative – SAHMRI Women’s and Kids

Merryn graduated from Flinders University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in biochemistry, followed in 1987 with a post graduate bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. For the past 25 years Merryn has worked as a clinical paediatric dietitian at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Adelaide. As well as all aspects of general paediatric nutrition, she specialises in working with families of children with food allergies.

Merryn is a member of the Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy and was the inaugural Chairperson of the ASCIA Dietitians Subcommittee. In 2011 Merryn was awarded status as an Advanced Accredited Practising Dietitian by the Dietitians Association of Australia.

Merryn’s PhD program investigated nutritional strategies for prevention, diagnosis and treatment of allergy, with a specific focus on egg allergy. Her main research project “The CAKE Study” was a randomised controlled trial investigating clinical and immunological changes with inclusion of baked egg in the diets of young children with egg allergy.

She has a passion for translating the science of nutrition into the practical aspects of the food that we place on our plates. Her work with the SAHMRI Healthy Mothers, Babies and Children focuses on the influence of early life nutrition on long term health.

Dr Mike Musker, Researcher Theme Representative – Life-long Health

Mike is currently a Senior Research Fellow in the Mind & Brain Theme and has over 30 years practice experience in mental health.  He was the Advanced Clinical Services Coordinator for the South Australian Forensic Mental Health Service.  Mike was the winner of the South Australian Nurse Excellence Awards 2013. He completed his PhD at the University of Adelaide and was awarded the Bellberry Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship at the Mind & Brain Theme at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute. His PhD research training focused on Perpetrator Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS) and included interviewing forensic mental health patients and prisoners about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other comorbid disorders.

Mike is researching mental health, including bullying, trauma, depression, weight gain, cognitive behavioural therapy, chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic myeloid leukaemia and many other areas.  Most of this research is completed through face to face interview using structured interviews and other diagnostic tools.  Mike has helped to develop consumer led practice in South Australia, chairing the Forensic Mental Health Service Lived Experience and Carers group for over 10 years, and has been facilitating the regular meetings of the Consumer (Lived Experience) and Carer Research Consultation Group in the Mind & Brain theme since May 2015.

Penelope McMillan, Community Representative

Penelope is a trained and experienced health consumer advocate across ageing, carers, disability, and chronic illness, with a special interest in ME/CFS. As a retired psychologist and teacher, with research experience in psychology, education and economics, Penelope also brings to her consumer advocacy roles the lived experience of her areas of interest and her extensive networks within the communities she represents.

Dr Susan Woods, Researcher Theme Representative – Precision Medicine

Susan is a mid-career investigator with three co-first author Nature journal publications in the field of cancer research. The focus of her Gut Cancer group at the University of Adelaide is on improving detection methods and treatment for gastrointestinal tract cancers. She trained with Nobel Laureate J. Michael Bishop at UCSF and with Prof Nick Hayward at QIMR-B in Brisbane, specialising in genetic alterations found in cancer. She is now working closely with clinician-scientist A/Prof Dan Worthley at SAHMRI, in Adelaide. She uses both patient samples and sophisticated preclinical models. Her research integrates next-gen sequence data, modelling genomic alterations using CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing and organoid culture to address clinical needs for bowel cancer. This has led to the development of a personalised medicine screening platform to guide patient-specific treatment for patients with advanced colorectal cancer.

Dr Tony Sangster, Community Representative

Tony is a healthcare consumer and community advocate who has had a ‘living experience’ of Type 1 Diabetes for 52 years, diagnosed at age 13. Along life’s way he has also acquired several other chronic conditions in mental health and respiratory.

All these personal experiences, along with sharing similar or diverse health journeys with a myriad of other people, have broadened his understanding and ideas on health, well-being and the various social, cultural, economic, political, gender, scientific and religious factors that impinge on health.

Tony has a keen interest in health literacy as well as topics relating to diabetes, depressive illness, exercise, the poverty divide, and hobby/interests as health giving. He is a keen kite flyer, and sometimes kite designer hobbyist, who tends to fly non-political kites but does make exceptions and applies skills and determination where needed for ‘political health’ kite flying.

Wendy Keech, Health Translation SA Representative

Wendy is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Health Translation SA. Prior to this she spent 4 years in the Aboriginal Research Unit at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) where she was the Executive Officer of the SA Aboriginal Chronic Disease Consortium and Senior Research Translation Manager working on a range of state and national research projects.
In 2014 she moved to SAHMRI from the Heart Foundation where she had been Director of Cardiovascular Health for 11 years. Through her career she has had significant experience in developing, implementing and evaluating evidence-based programs and working between research, policy and program delivery. She has a strong background in strategic planning, prevention, public health, heart disease, physical activity, tobacco control and nutrition.


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North Terrace
Adelaide 5000
South Australia

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PO Box 11060
Adelaide 5001
South Australia


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SAHMRI is located on the traditional lands of the Kaurna people.

The SAHMRI community acknowledges and pays respect to the Kaurna people as the traditional custodians of the Adelaide region. We also acknowledge the deep feelings of attachment and the relationship of the Kaurna people to their country. We pay our respects to the Kaurna peoples' ancestors and the living Kaurna people today.